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Majestic 12 Follies Returns (skeptical)

Barry Greenwood, UFO Historical Revue, #3 Jan 1999

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: I was surprised to find in late 1998 that attempts were being made by several individuals, primarily a Dr. Robert Wood, an engineer, and his son Ryan, a marketing and sales specialist in the computer industry, to resurrect the MJ-12 controversy. They have claimed to have received new documents supporting the notion the U.S. government actually investigated alien spacecraft beginning in the 1940s, under the banner of "Majestic-12, supposedly a panel of eminent scientists and government officials.

Barry Greenwood

author's bio

( I had planned on a follow-up on long-duration meteors for this number of UHR, but recent developments on an MJ-12 revival warranted timely comment. The historical reason for this? The documents are claimed to originate from the 1940s through the 1960s, and are touted as genuine by believers in aliens visiting Earth.)

I was surprised to find in late 1998 that attempts were being made by several individuals, primarily a Dr. Robert Wood, an engineer, and his son Ryan, a marketing and sales specialist in the computer industry, to resurrect the MJ-12 controversy. They have claimed to have received new documents supporting the notion the U.S. government actually investigated alien spacecraft beginning in the 1940s, under the banner of "Majestic-12, supposedly a panel of eminent scientists and government officials.

Readers familiar with this editor's involvement a decade ago recall that I had published information as far back as 1985, puzzling over the rumors of the possible existence of such a group. However, when physical evidence of the alleged group's reality surfaced in the form of documents leaked from the government by anonymous sources, I, and other researchers, had concluded that the rumors of MJ-12 were false. This conclusion was based upon months of detailed analysis of the papers, published in my previous journal, Just Cause, between 1987 and 1990. Much of the UFO community at the time balked at the suggestion that MJ-12 was a hoax and, despite the serious problems described by researchers familiar with government documents, happily endorsed MJ-12 as part of real history. This eventually led to books, a plot line in a TV series as well as film, lectures; etc.

As we all know, making outrageous claims in today's world is fashionable, chic and rewarding. Even if such claims don't make piles of money for the perpetrators, at least they became a major topic of attention. And if they are orchestrated well, they can attract the media (the sponge in society that hungrily soaks up outrageousness!)

MJ-12 led to a prominent novelist, Whitley Strieber, producing a work (Majestic). It led to an appearance by its promoters on many television shows, including one of the top rated of its time (Nightline).

MJ-12 eventually lost steam due to the torrent of problems that became increasingly evident in the documents, the lack of any independent confirmation from even a single documented government source, and the lack of candor and cooperation of its "discoverers," primarily William Moore and Jaime Shandera. And that is not to mention the questionable claims of being an "unpaid government agent," along with other peculiar statements by William Moore in a 1989 speech given in Las Vegas (Just Cause, September 1989).

Exhibit One: The MJ-12 Annual

The key issue, the one overwhelming problem with the original papers was their lack of provenance. All the documents, save one, came from an anonymous source. The one document that was "discovered" at the National Archives by Moore and Shandera (the Cutler/Twining memo) was made known to the archives under such suspicious circumstances that the chief of the Military Archives Division was forced to issue a 10-point list of "problems" with the document in an official letter dated July 22, 1987. The rest of the documents were not even originals but were sent to the claimants on photographic film from which paper reproductions were made.
Anything, anything at all that issues from an anonymous source, particularly something claiming very unorthodox information, must be regarded with the highest degree of suspicion. If the source won't even reveal an identity, what don't you know about them, what do they hold back from you? What are the true motives of the source, not the assumed motives that the recipient ascribes to him. If you find a T-bone steak wrapped in brown paper sitting in your yard, do you take it in the house, cook and eat it without question? Unfortunately, that is what a lot of the reading public did with MJ-12.

MJ-12 claims quieted down in the 1990s, in spite of efforts by one of MJ-12's last vocal adherents, Stanton Friedman, to keep it alive. It remained dormant until 1998.


I was told that on October 11, 1998, a father and son research team, Dr. Robert Wood and son Ryan, gave a speech at the Omega Communications UFO conference, in which they claimed to have new MJ-12 documents not previously made public. These documents were said to have come from another researcher, Timothy Cooper of California, who in turn received the documents in his post office box back in 1992 from a mysterious, unknown source named "Cantwheel," who was said to have since passed away.
It was an all-so-familiar scenario: anonymous sources sending sensational UFO stuff through the mail to little-known individuals for unstated reasons, much the same as in the original MJ-12. But this seemed to have no impact at all on the Woods as I was told that they had already endorsed the documents as authentic.

Sometime later I was informed by researchers Ed Stewart and Jan Aldrich that the documents were reproduced on the Internet. In late December, Stewart kindly sent me copies of the lot, along with a transcript of the Woods' speech, to see why they would come to such an extraordinary conclusion in light of the earlier destruction on MJ-12.

There are some 15 documents, or 96 pages, used in the Woods' study, well beyond what I can hope to deal with in this publication. So I will only deal with a selection of the most notable curiosities.

As with the original papers, I look at these new documents within the boundaries of the fact that they are from anonymous sources and, as such, are of very suspicious origin. Nothing is taken for granted except that they are suspicious. When one looks at the papers once this is understood, the next question is are what you are seeing beyond any possibility of being faked? If you have no original document, no source, no official release authority, and if you know that authentic-looking fakes can be created through computer technology, photocopy forgery techniques (such as laying false text over a real, signed copy of a document, and then recopying the whole, whitening out the tell-tale seams of the overlay), or retyping whole documents using vintage equipment and blank letterhead stationery (an example of this in UFO history is the Straith letter hoax, perpetrated by Gray Barker and James Moseley, with some inside help from a supplier of State Department stationery), then any investigation of these documents must have a low degree of confidence in any positive conclusion.

The Woods even acknowledge this, to a point, in their speech, "..we admit that authenticity is never certain" (Speech transcript, page 4). Yet in the same speech, "..we're going to summarize why the documents are not fakes." Commenting on one document, the "Oppenheimer/Einstein draft," the Woods say, ..there is one unusual authentication feature that ensures they are genuine." And further on, "We believe they're genuine." So there is little doubt about where the Woods are coming from in this investigation. Rather than be cautious about undocumented sources, they are opting to "believe" in the documents.

In their discussion of the "Interplanetary Phenomena Unit" document, describing crashed-disc recovery procedures, the Woods argue that a mention of John F. Kennedy being knowledgeable about a UFO recovery operation, due to his involvement with Naval Intelligence, is impressive to the document's authenticity. This because, according to the Woods, few knew of Kennedy's intelligence connection in 1947. They add, "So the person who wrote this, if it was in 1947, was one of perhaps 12 people in the country who knew this obscure fact." Do the Woods here have a concern about the document dating from 1947? If they do, they don't say why.

And certainly, if the document were written in 1947 by a government official, then we wouldn't be debating this at all. But it is as plausible that a more recent faker would have read a later book mentioning this and included it in his creation, at least one citation of which the Woods acknowledge exists. A hoaxer would have had many years to research his topic. For this unofficially released, source-unknown document, the Woods don't even raise the possibility that the later scenario could have occurred, and instead declare this information to be a "zinger," which according to the Woods, says almost by itself that the document is genuine. We are beginning to see an erosion of objectivity in these few examples.

In their discussion of the "Air Accident Report," an alleged document by General Nathan Twining describing the inside of the crashed remains of a flying saucer in detail, the Woods spend much time on document letterhead, logos, format and paper size being consistent with the era written (1947). In wondering about a couple of the logo details, "These two things are so obscure that unless you were digging around the National Archives, you wouldn't know to put this in a fake document. You must ask yourself, why go to all this trouble."

Did the Woods even consider that prior to the original release of the MJ-12 papers in 1987, there were a number of individuals who had the following things in common:

1) Spent long periods of time at the National Archives.
2) Were knowledgeable, as a result of the Archives visits, with government formats, letterheads,
logos, dating styles, paper sizes, etc
3) Were very knowledgeable about UFOs.
4) Who later promoted MJ-12 as real.

In one case, I showed how one MJ-12 promoter, William Moore, in retyping unclear photocopies of green fireball documents for sale, changed the dating style of the original documents to his own peculiar dating style in four cases, which just so happened to be the same, non-standard dating style used in the original MJ-12 Briefing document (Just Cause, June 1990)!
Curiously, the Woods, in their 1998 speech, raise the most questions about the Briefing Paper (not one of their Cooper releases but the 1987 release). They say, "it seems reasonable to conjecture that the Eisenhower Briefing Document might have been a cleverly crafted piece of disinformation aimed at the Soviets, and therefore the only document presented here that is not entirely genuine, even though it contains much that is precisely true."

Yet the Briefing was wholeheartedly endorsed as genuine by the original team of researchers, Moore, Shandera and Friedman, and still is by Friedman. Whose years-long, professional detailed analysis is correct? Or might we create a new category of document authenticity: the falsely genuine!

In perusing chapter 8 of Friedman's book, Top Secret/Majic, we find that Timothy Cooper supplied Friedman with copies of several new MJ-12 documents a number of years ago, including a February 1948 "Memorandum for the President" by Roscoe Hillenkoetter, a September 25, 1947 memo to President Truman from General George Marshall and a July 9, 1947 Truman to Twining memo. The later two were included in the Woods' document package presented at Omega, and called genuine. Friedman appeared to be noncommitted to those documents, but he was clearly not impressed with the 1948 document, saying that it was "really a doctored version of a memo that would have been sent to President Roosevelt during World War 2."

This document was one of the first sent to Friedman by Cooper, the same source as the Woods' papers. Yet the 1948 document was not included in the Woods' analysis. Why? They can't claim ignorance of it because it was quoted in Friedman's 1996 book, in the midst of the Woods' years long investigation. Did they not want the public to know that some of the supply from Cooper/Cantwheel were transparent fakes that couldn't make the cut? Some of the Supply? Yes, there were other problem papers.

Friedman alluded to "another bunch of documents" from Tim Cooper (TS/Majic, pgs. 158-9) condemning one September 27, 1947 document as an outright fraud, and adding that "several other items were retyped and slightly changed versions of old memos and letters." Neither were these Cooper/Cantwheel documents dealt with in the Woods' analysis. Why?

Smells like a cover-up to me!

This particular situation is reminiscent of Moore, Shandera and Friedman's handling of MJ-12 in the 1980s. Then, too, documents were withheld. Does anyone recall the CIA "MJ-5" document? Or others like it? They were ridiculous fakes, one of which was part of the original release of MJ-12 documents by William Moore in his Focus newsletter in 1987. I had pointed out numerous flaws in the document (Just Cause, September 1987, pg. 3). Thereafter, it was dropped, along with companion documents, from subsequent discussion by MJ-12 promoters. Why aren't they mentioned in Friedman's 1996 book?

There is also, in both the old and new MJ-12 documents, unaccountable censorship evident, text blacked out for no apparent reason. It is rather odd behavior for a government source, leaking highly-classified papers to get the truth out about alien contacts. How may one know the truth by deleting information? In the case of the old MJ-12 documents, William Moore subsequently admitted self-censoring his own releases, evidently to give them a more mysterious, governmental appearance. I wonder who may have done this to the new releases?

Exhibit Two: Example of Irrelevant Censorship

More needs to be said about signed documents. The Woods make much of the fact that signatures appearing in some of the papers look real. Indeed that is likely. The signatures may well be authentic for whom they are supposed to represent. However, the Woods pay astonishingly little attention to the likelihood that photocopy forgeries are responsible, especially given the conditions under which Tim Cooper, and then the Woods, received their copies (no originals, generations-removed photocopies). I had once investigated, while with CAUS, an alleged letter by a University of Chicago professor, on university letterhead, claiming knowledge of alien autopsies. After I sent the photocopied letter to the professor for comment, I had received a midnight phone call from the university's attorney, asking for the source of the copy. The professor informed the attorney that someone had placed false text over a real, signed letter of his and recopied it. He was quite upset that his academic reputation would have been damaged if people believed what was written. It takes only minutes to create a document in this way, and it can be done to anyone at any time who has written and signed a document. A reason to doubt photocopied evidence from unknown sources? Here it is! Friedman cites the February 1948 memo as containing a handwritten Truman signature and Vannevar Bush initials, and calls it "doctored" (TS/Majic, pg. 159), establishing that photocopied forgeries did come from the Woods' source, Tim Cooper, and ultimately the mysterious "Cantwheel."
Many UFO adherents have shown more than a willingness to accept unsubstantiated statements attributed to an individual than substantiated statements probably from that individual. Albert Einstein is already on the record as having a disinterest in the UFO controversy, expressed shortly before his death.

In Exhibit 3 is a portion of a strange statement on extraterrestrial life, allegedly by two of the most prominent physicists in history, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein. Crude phrasing and spelling are attributed by the Woods in their analysis to "a secretary who couldn't spell." (Oppenheimer/Einstein document, pg. 4)

With an incompetent secretary injecting so much of herself into the text, Woods go on to claim, "Literary analysis compares favorably with other Albert Einstein pieces during period of interest." How can the Woods say that this crude piece of work is typical of Einstein writing, without providing any sort of substantiation whatsoever for this alleged comparative analysis, or claim it was Einstein at all if the secretary was such an incompetent writer? Did the document go to any Einstein authorities for comment? Any archive? Any library holding large amounts of Einstein writing? Imagine Einstein or Oppenheimer hiring a secretary who couldn't spell, given the precise language and computative requirements of a physicist! Imagine both approving of such a paper to be filed under their names (it was in MJ-12's files, according to the Woods). If Einstein were studying "Celestrial" matters under such conditions, history would have been saddled with the famous formula:

E = MJ 2 !

Another astonishing statement from the Woods in this regard, "..forensic examiners find that errors present in documents tend to indicate authenticity instead of lack of authenticity." "Fakers usually try to make sure they're perfect." (!) So, the Woods are trying to convince us that the more errors a document contains, the more genuine it is! "Don't believe what makes sense and believe in nonsense" is the logical extrapolation from that. The only problem is that non-fakers try to make sure that their documents are perfect too.

So, if Albert Einstein has written a perfect document, we should doubt it in favor of the error-riddled nonsense that the Woods try to convince us is representative of one of the great minds of history?

Is this what UFO "research" claims to be now ?

Exhibit 3: Extract from the Oppenheimer/Einstein Document

What of the Eisenhower Briefing Document mentioned earlier. The Woods reject it as "not entirely genuine," due to its perceived errors (i.e. contradictions of fact with the new documents). I thought that errors indicated genuineness? What happened to that standard? It was rejected because it disagreed with the new documents, in which the Woods have chosen to believe. By what standard of fact do we judge the content of these documents. Both the Briefing Paper and the Woods' papers come from anonymous sources. How do the Woods know they don't come from the same source? (after all, someone is dipping into the master MJ-12 file and shooting the documents all over the place!) What happened to security for the, claimed, most closely guarded secret in world history? Or why doesn't it all go to CBS, NBC, New York Times, or even the Podunk Advocate to give the info some corporate clout with money to do a good investigation, instead of to measly UFOlogists who, as a group, are no longer particularly respected or believed by outlets that could do the topic the most good?
If the documents come from the same source, them both sets of documents are supposed to be genuine. How do the Woods explain the contradiction of facts between the two sets in that case? There is evidence for linkage you know.

If the Cooper-supplied documents are genuine, then they draw information from the already-questioned Eisenhower Briefing. How do I Know? Because in Friedman's Top Secret/Majic (pg. 145) he cites a Cooper-sourced document, the 1948 Memorandum for the President, which the Woods inexplicably did not include in their analysis. The document references "092447" in the upper corner, a clear allusion to the so-called "So-called Classified Executive Order" (SCEO) listed as attachment to the Eisenhower Briefing. This was the Truman order initiating MJ-12. Friedman has already rejected this as a doctored version of a real, non-UFO memo. The SCEO, as I had discussed in my original MJ-12 report (Just Cause, September 1987), has no basis in fact, being a fantasy creation by Friedman to explain the presence of the suspect Truman document. Real executive orders follow a sequential numbering system, not a date-based system, and they may be classified as the president sees fit, rendering "SCEOs" as redundant. To date, after intense research, no MJ-12 proponent have established the existence of SCEOs in real life.

Another problem with the Woods' assertion about the Briefing being official disinformation: They say it could have been created to mislead the Russians. Yet it includes the SCEO in full and references it in the text. The Woods accept the SCEO as authentic, "..the two big concerns about the type and the signature: they've evaporated for Attachment A" (the SCEO). (the Woods speech, 1998)

But they don't explain why one of the most highly secretive documents in U.S. history is allowed to be given over to the Russians freely when it has never been made available, even 50 years later, to U.S. citizens. If the Russians have it, why should it be a secret anymore? It circulates in public now (by a "leak") but not a single agency can document its existence.

So, if the Woods say that the Briefing is not entirely genuine, we can't have confidence in what it says, despite Friedman's support of it. And if Friedman says some documents from the Woods' source are fraudulent, we can't have much confidence in that source of information, despite the Woods declaring their papers to be genuine. Both these parties support MJ-12 and are in serious conflict here! Why don't the Woods mention this in their analysis, or mention their "missing" documents?

But there is more to come!


One of the most detailed documents in the Woods' collection is "Majestic 12 Project - 1st Annual Report" (hereon referred to as the "Annual"). They express their belief that the document is genuine. That in the several years of study that Woods have performed, it has provided "no indication of fakery at all." Seventeen pages of "specific, checkable details" are described as the "mother lode" by the Woods. They add that it will take several man years to validate every phrase and claim. It didn't take that long to notice a curiosity about its content.
Important to this discussion is when the document was said to have been produced. It is undated. The Woods believe it to date from the summer of 1952. The inclusion in the panel list (see Exhibit 1) of Dr. Hugh Dryden as Director of Aeronautical Research, NACA, definitely places the document in the 1950s. Dryden served as Director from August 1947 through 1958 when NACA was absorbed by NASA. Also on page 16 is a reference that, "During recent NATO maneuvers, the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt has been trailed by numerous UFOs..." clearly making reference to the North Sea "Operation Mainbrace" naval maneuvers, during which UFOs were seen, and photographed, in September 1952. "Recent" doesn't place the document too much in time beyond that date.

The Annual discusses a series of UFO and other strange incidents in its "Annex C." One was particularly noteworthy as I had an interest in it as far back as the early 1970s. Exhibit 4 reproduces that portion of the Annual referencing the disappearance of the One Fourth Norfolk Regiment into a strange cloud:

Exhibit Four: Annual Extract

But there was something seriously wrong with this!
The disappearance of the One Fourth Norfolk in Turkey during World War I has been a staple of UFO pulp literature for many years, having been cited pretty much as reproduced in the MJ-12 Annual through the 1960s and 1970s. Even recently I have seen it written up in tabloid papers. It was this kind of sensational treatment that led me and a friend to look into the tale for a brief time in 1972.

A former co-worker in my regular job who had emigrated from Britain to the U.S., and who was a British military history buff, was fascinated when I told him about the disappearance. He decided to send a letter to the Public Records Office in London, asking for confirmation of the details. His response, from J.L. Walford, dated June 9, 1972, said:

"According to the War Diary (WO 95/4325) for August 1915, the regiment underwent some light shelling on 14th August, but was otherwise entirely engaged on routine operations. No casualties are reported for the month."

I was rather surprised and disappointed that such an interesting story didn't seem to have any substantiation for the very strange disappearance of hundreds of men. I attributed the story to more sensation-mongering by writers on UFOs, and went on to other matters.
It was not until some years later that I discovered the source of the story. In purchasing back numbers of old UFO publications, I found that the first details on the disappearance of the One Fourth Norfolk were published in an affidavit signed by three former soldiers of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli, Turkey. The festivities were held on April 25, 1965. (see Spaceview - a New Zealand UFO publication, September-October 1965, "Incident at Gallipoli" - where the affidavit was reproduced, and February-March 1966, "Research on 'Incident at Gallipoli'")

First reported in 1965?! There is more.

In August 1978, the magazine Fortean Times published a detailed investigation of the Gallipoli disappearance by Paul Begg. Begg had conducted extensive document research in an attempt to determine if the incident had occurred as written, using military sources most likely to be able to document what had happened. His results:

1) The First-Fourth Norfolk was not a regiment but a battalion within the Royal Norfolk
2) The First-Fourth Norfolk did not disappear at Gallipoli in August 1915 or at any other time.
3) It was an undisputed fact that a sister battalion, the First-Fifth Norfolk did disappear, but
not on the date or in the manner said to have happened to the First-Fourth.

Begg described the disappearance of the First-Fifth Norfolk from the "Final Report of the Dardanelles Commission, CMD 371" (1917) as an advance by the battalion on August 12, 1915 at 4:45 PM into a wooded area and amid a pitched battle, pushing the Turks ahead of them. The charge into the woods was the last heard of the First-Fifth battalion as a unit. "Not one ever came back," said the report.
However, according to Begg, they did not actually vanish. At the end of the war a soldier of the occupation, upon touring the battlefield, found an emblem of the Royal Norfolk Regiment. It was learned later that a Turkish farmer found decomposing bodies of British soldiers on his land upon returning after the battle. The bodies were dumped into a ravine where they were later discovered. Of the 180 bodies found, 122 were of the First-Fifth Norfolk. Other members of the battalion weren't found, but given battle conditions at Gallipoli, some possibly taken prisoner and others having returned to camp after the advance, not being lost at all, the lack of accounting for around 100 men is far from mysterious.

Begg asked the New Zealand Ministry of Defense about the story, whose representative, I.C. MacGibbon, responded, "if Reichardt and his fellow Gallipoli veterans saw a 'bread-shaped cloud of light grey color' lower itself into the path of the 1/5 Norfolks, why did they wait until 1965 before signing an affidavit to this effect?"

Finally, on the strange cloud. According to the Final Report of the Dardanelles Commission, a reference was made to an unexpected mist on August 21, that was unseasonable but otherwise not unusual. During an offensive that day the Sherwood Rangers advanced into the mist and were destroyed by Turks placed on the hills above the mist who had spotted the Rangers' advance.

The disappearance and rediscovery of the First-Fifth Norfolk is accurately recounted in Harold Wilkins' Strange Mysteries of Time and Space page 162 (1958). Wilkins was aware of the disappearance but his reporting in no way resembled the telling of the story in the affidavit.

It is apparent that the soldiers signing the affidavit had confused a number of real events (documented) for a weird tale (undocumented), not at all surprising at a 50th reunion of elderly soldiers.

The First -Fourth Norfolks did not disappear. The First-Fifth Norfolks did disappear on August 12, 1915. A strange mist did appear on the 21st, but no one disappeared.

Now in light of these facts, how is it that a 1952 MJ-12 document recounts a flawed version of a story, which was unknown before 1965, in fact a story unique to 1965, 13 years after the document's claimed authorship????? The MJ-12 version is based more upon 1960s UFO pulp and newsletter accounts than it is on historical record. And we can probably eliminate the original publication of the affidavit in Spaceview as a source because it cites the 28th of August as the date of the disappearance. In fact, I do recall seeing versions of the other disappearances mentioned in the MJ-12 Annual's page 13 in UFO pulp literature that I had read during that era.

One cannot avoid the conclusion that the Annual is a complete fake. How is it that the Woods did not notice this in their years-long investigation? What does it say of the Woods' investigation? For all of the impressive appearance and content of the Annual, one small mention of an alleged 1915 disappearance brings it crashing down in a heap, an anachronism to the power of 12, MJ that is! Claims by the Woods about type style, language, format, security makings, signatures, and "zingers" supporting the documents now have a hollow quality. It makes one think that the legitimate use of such investigative techniques under more normal circumstances, and in more skilled hands, is worthless if they didn't work very well here.

But we should remember that, according to the Woods, errors tend to support authenticity. With that, this gaping error in the Annual must prove its reality beyond all shadow of doubt!

The Woods state that the Annual's discussion on control and denial is "possibly the most egregious outrage yet perpetrated on the world public." I can think of one other that comes close: the new MJ-12 document investigation by its supporters. For now, MJ-12 is again being promoted as genuine in lectures, on radio, on the Internet, and in a forthcoming book, with document copies being sold to an unsuspecting public.

An old adage applies here, "He who does not learn from the mistakes of history is doomed to repeat them!" A fantasy world of revisionist history is being promoted by the Woods, fed by unknown sources with suspicious paperwork. None of this has been verified, despite 12 years of searching by advocates. It remains to be seen how many more years it will continue to distract consumers from reality.

Read more articles on this topic:

The Majestic Documents